Chapter 1: So It Begins
Yasha was expecting a refined lady. Beauregard's father certainly seemed like a dignified man, of good repute. It was a wonder Yasha had been hired at all, come to think of it. She liked to think it was because she looked strong, without the problem of being a man who could seduce his daughter.
But upon meeting Beauregard for the first time Yasha was struck by how wild she looked.
Her hair, instead of being in one of those elegant up-dos that Yasha often saw on the well-to-dos, was half-shaved, and it looked like someone had made a rough go of it. Like they'd done it in secret, in the dark perhaps. Her dress was in horrible disarray, sleeves rolled up, the whole fabric wrinkled, an indeterminate stain on the bodice. Yasha also spied bitten fingernails, and a nasty scratch on the back of her hand.
Her eyes were a piercing blue, and Yasha felt skewered on her gaze. Her charge smirked.
"Well, at least you're more attractive than the last one."
Yasha, taken aback, said nothing. Beauregard turned, looking over her shoulder at Yasha.
"Come on then. I want to go to the market. Wouldn't want to step outside manor walls without my shadow."
Yasha, dutifully, followed. "Yes, my lady."
Beauregard grimaced, as Yasha fell in line. "Don't call me that. Beau is fine. Everyone calls me Beau."
"If that's what you'd like," Yasha replied, opening the heavy gates and gesturing Beau through.
"All that 'my lady' shit just makes me feel like some frou-frou doll."
They walked in relative silence to the marketplace. Yasha did not say much out of habit, Beau only tossed out the odd remark about her neighbors or how fine the day was. She seemed well at ease, not at all feared for her safety, and Yasha had to wonder why she'd been hired. The girl seemed like she could look out for herself well enough, and this part of the countryside was fairly calm, quiet, and relatively bandit-free. The Sleepy South, it was called, and Yasha could see why. She'd had trouble looking for other work, and the role of bodyguard for a noble's daughter struck her as something she could do with ease. What did she have to guard the girl against anyways?
As they approached the marketplace it began to grow more and more crowded. Merchants called out their wares and people thronged to buy them, mothers with children, servants, peasants, beggars. Yasha stepped in front of Beau to avoid a cart trying to push its way through, and stepped around a large mud puddle immediately after. She turned to help her lady, so as not to (further) soil her dress, but where Beau should have been there was no one.
Frantically, Yasha scanned the crowds, looking for the light blue dress of her charge. Finally she saw the edge of it, disappearing around a corner down a dark alley. Yasha made her way through the crowd, noting that thankfully most people cleared a path for her so as not to be trampled by the large panicking woman.
Yasha kept her hand on her sword as she went down the alley, eyes sharp for miscreants as well as her lady. Her mismatched eyes adjusted to the dim light; a pile of rags resolved itself into a beggar, hat in hands. No Beau. Yasha hurried down the alley to find it branched off into another side street, this one far more narrow. There were voices coming from down near the end. Yasha sidled forward cautiously.
"Look, all I know is that I wouldn't spout rubbish like that if you didn't want a fat lip to match that shiner I gave you last week."
"I'm just speakin' true! Everyone knows your father wouldn't--"
"You leave my damn father out of this!" That was definitely Beau, and Yasha heard the smack of flesh on flesh just in time to see her charge punch a young man square in the face. A young man she had grabbed by the collar, who was easily twice her size.
In a split second Yasha was between them, though she had a feeling it was more for the young man's safety than Beau's.
"Who're you?" squalled the young man, cradling his jaw.
"Her guard. Go about your business." The young man scurried off, thankfully not pressing the issue. He seemed glad to be off.
Beau was frowning when Yasha redirected her gaze. "You shouldn't have scared him off. He owed me money."
"Money for what?"
"He lost a bet against me last week at the cockfighting ring. I've been looking for him so I could collect what he owed me."
"What on earth were you doing at a cockfighting ring?"
"Making bank," Beau smirked up at Yasha, and Yasha felt an uneasy pit settle in her gut. The reason she'd been hired, she surmised, wasn't to guard this girl, it was to keep her from running off to beat up more people twice her size and to stop her from gambling away her allowance in the rougher parts of town.
"We're going back," Yasha stated, grabbing Beau firmly by the upper arm, not allowing any room for protest.
"You're not going to tell my dad, are you? You seem cool. Like you wouldn't rat me out."
"I'm not going to tell your father, although I definitely should. I don't want to look like an idiot on my first day." She began dragging Beau back the way she came.
"I'm not done with the market yet!" protested Beau as they walked, or rather, marched back to the main road.
"Oh? More victims to beat up?" quipped Yasha dryly.
"I really did want to buy something!" Beau whined, twisting in Yasha's grip.
"Sorry, you lost privileges when I heard about the cockfighting ring."
All Beau had to say in response was a deep sigh. Yasha felt like doing the same. And here she'd been think she could take it easy.
When Beau was safely ensconced back in her quarters, Yasha began asking around, about the old bodyguard and about her charge. The responses she got back from the staff in the manor were fairly similar, and Yasha found her suspicions to be entirely true. Beau was a wild child who had far too much energy for her own good and snuck off every chance she got. Though twenty years of age, she was still unmarried, and likely to stay that way for a while. She hated everything about being a lady, and preferred getting into street fights. Beau's last guard had been fired for letting Beau sneak off to, as Yasha suspected, watch a cockfight, and the guard before that had been fired for letting Beau get herself involved in a tavern brawl. How Beau's father kept the family name out of the papers was a mystery, though Beau was certainly shunned from several local households and social circles, and the last time she'd been invited to a ball was when she was eleven and quite yet the firecracker she grew to be. Even then, she'd been a tomboy, forever stealing and wearing breeches from the servant boys to go run around in.
So, Yasha reflected, her real task wasn't to keep trouble away from Beau, it was to keep Beau from finding trouble, which the lady seemed to search for like it was her job. Yasha now knew the stunt Beau had pulled today was child's play compared to what she could get up to, and if she wanted to stay here longer than a week it would take a close eye, a stern hand, and maybe a little lying.
Lying to her employer over a girl who was spoiling for a good fight. What could go wrong?
Chapter 2: Fallen
Falling's not the problem/When I'm falling I'm at peace/It's only when I hit the ground/It causes all the grief
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
Over the course of the next few days, Yasha stuck close to her plan. Beau, having learned that Yasha was fairly cool but would drag her from her scraps, was ever determined to sneak away when Yasha's back was turned. The day after the alleyway incident, Yasha caught her trying to run off to catch a bear-baiting event.
"Come on Yasha, let me have a little fun! That's like fifty time better than embroidery any day."
Yasha said nothing as she slowly dragged Beau back to her rooms.
That very night, Beau managed to slip past Yasha to go to the local tavern. Yasha intervened right as she was about to pick a fight with a grizzled sailor and his five friends, each one bigger and uglier than the last. By intervened, Yasha had absorbed the first punch the man threw, as she artfully slid between him and her charge. She had caught the next punch and proceeded to throw the man end over end across the bar. Things seemed to calm down quite a bit after that.
"That. Was. Awesome!" Beau gushed on the way home, from where she had been slung over Yasha's shoulder like a sack of flour. "Can you show me that move?"
"Maybe. If you promise not to use it any time soon."
"Can we spar?" Beau practically vibrated with excitement at the very idea.
"Why not?" Beau said in a pouty tone.
"I'd break you like a dry twig."
"I'm tough! I win fights all the time!"
At that, Yasha had to smile, amused despite herself. "So I've heard. Beau, I'll show you how to do that toss if you promise to stay at home for a week, deal?" It felt underhanded promising her this, but Yasha needed to keep this job and the roof over her head.
"Deal," Beau immediately agreed, and she was grinning when Yasha set her down.
Beau kept her word, and Yasha did indeed show her the toss, along with a couple of other dodges and moves, mostly in self-defense. Yasha was careful with Beau, and artfully outmaneuvered Beau's attempts to goad Yasha into a fight or "sparring session". Beau did everything from complimenting Yasha to calling her mother's virtue into question. One hour later, during which Yasha had been harmlessly pinning the girl to the ground via sitting on her back, Beau took it back. Even apologized, which Yasha thought was a nice touch.
But Yasha's relief at Beau staying put at home was short lived. Yasha had let her guard down. One day Beau was happily, if somewhat stiffly, sitting at home wearing a relatively nice dress and working on her sewing, the next Yasha was getting reamed out by her employer because Beau had returned home with a lovely black eye.
From the moment Beau's father summoned Yasha to his study, Yasha knew something was wrong. As she entered the study, having been led there by a servant girl, her first sight was that of her employer, a graying man in his late middle-age, red in the face with anger, sitting at his desk. The next thing Yasha saw was his wayward daughter, sitting in the chair across from him. She turned her head and grinned at Yasha, and Yasha felt her heart sink at the sight of her face.
"Heeeeey, Yasha! I was just telling dad about the bar fight I got into last night. You should have been there! I took on like seven guys, it was great. One guy got a good swing in on me but I tried that move you showed me and it totally worked!" Beau beamed with pride as Yasha felt herself turn to stone. Beau's father seemed to grow more livid with every word out of his daughter's mouth.
"That's enough, Beauregard! Do you not realize the seriousness of your actions? You could have been killed! You could have been seriously injured! No one knew where you were!"
Beau scoffed. "I found my way home just fine, Dad, there wasn't anything to be concerned about." This did not calm her father down in any way.
"You're always doing this! I had hoped you would stop this foolishness once you came of age, but if anything it's gotten far worse! You have no prospects in terms of marriage, you have no sense of decorum...what am I to do with you? Should I send you off to some school? Should I keep you locked in your rooms?"
"Dad, please don't send me off or lock me away! It was just one night! It won't happen again. I have Yasha now, she'll keep me safe! Dad, please!" Beau seemed to grow frightened, and Yasha felt a pang of sympathy for the girl, for all that she made Yasha's life difficult.
"Enough. We'll talk more later. Go to your rooms. Sophie, make sure she actually gets there. I want to speak with Yasha."
Beau passed by Yasha on her way out, and reached out to squeeze Yasha's bicep, in what was presumably a comforting way. Yasha, who had remained very still, forced herself to walk over and sit in the chair Beau had just vacated.
Beau's father was still infuriated, and he muttered under his breath before addressing Yasha.
"Two weeks on the job, and you let my daughter get injured? Where were you?" barked the man.
"Posted outside her bedroom, sir."
"She still snuck by you."
"It will never happen again, sir." Yasha focused on the man's red cravat, too tense to look him in the eyes. She knew what was coming next. He'd agree with her and say of course it wasn't happening again, because Yasha was fired, and he'd order her to pack up and leave town. Only, her employer said nothing. In fact, he seemed to be sizing Yasha up.
"What was she saying about you showing her a toss?"
"Sir, I can explain. She told me she would behave if I showed her a few of my moves. I merely showed her some self-defense, for her safety, in case she's mugged while shopping."
Her employer was silent for a long time.
"For all I know, your so called 'self-defense moves' actually prevented her from being injured further, so I won't cast aspersions. I know full well how much of a handful Beauregard can be. She's as wild as any boy, and seems to delight in adding more gray hair to my head."
"Sir," Yasha murmured, gaze firmly fixed on the cravat, not daring to hope this would go in her favor.
"You seem to make her happy. Certainly she's never particularly liked her bodyguards, not enough to smile and chatter with them. If you can find a way to keep her out of trouble for a month, I'll give you a raise. From now on, I'll expect daily reports on her behavior, whether she's staying out of trouble. I have no desire to lock away my only daughter, but if she doesn't settle down I might indeed find a finishing school or nunnery for her."
A wave of relief washed over Yasha. "Thank you sir, I'll keep all of that in mind, sir." She dared look up into his face. He wasn't smiling, but he also was no longer red with anger. Progress.
"See that you do. Dismissed."
Beau was waiting for her outside of the study, having somehow slipped away from poor Sophie, and Yasha wasted no time in leading the girl by the arm to Beau's quarters, where they could speak privately.
"I heard a little of what dad said. You're staying?" Beau gazed up at Yasha, eyes filled with hope.
"Yes. I'm staying for now. I have to report to your father every day." Beau look supremely pleased with Yasha's pronouncement, and it was then that Yasha thought of something truly underhanded. It was clear that her charge liked her, probably too much, and it was clear the girl sought her approval. She could leverage that.
"Beau, what if I told you there were conditions to me staying here?"
Beau scoffed. "Well, obviously. I'm not an idiot. Dad wants me to be safe, or at least his definition of safe. You're to prevent me from getting hurt."
Yasha sighed. "I'm to prevent you from fighting, to protect you from yourself in a sense. If your father thinks that you're being a proper lady and haven't gone seeking trouble in a month, I'll get a raise in pay. However, if you do get into another fight and he finds out, I'll be sacked and forced to leave town, I expect. Your father is a very important man, and he can certainly make it hard on me to find work here."
"So you want me to sit put and be a proper lady, like dad wants?" Beau frowned deeply at this.
"I'm not saying you have to be a proper lady, but I am saying I want you to be more careful. If you're going to sneak out, take me with you. If you're going to get into a fight, limit your injuries to the less visible parts of your body. Or don't get injured at all. You don't owe me your obedience or subservience...but I will have to leave if you come back with another black eye."
"You'll stay if I behave?" Beau placed a hand on Yasha's bicep, lightly. The way she was looking up at Yasha made Yasha's stomach flip a bit.
She stepped back a pace.
"I'll be able to stay if you make the appearance of behaving properly, yes."
Beau smirked. "Did you say you'd help me sneak out?"
Ah, there was the devious Beau that Yasha knew. "I said if you sneak out take me with you, but if it stops your father from finding us out, yes, I'll help you."
Beau took a step towards Yasha, putting herself back into her space. "Then yes, I'll behave. Because I don't want you to go. I'll do what I have to so you'll stay by my side."
Feeling truly underhanded, Yasha put a hand to Beau's cheek, cupping her face. "Thank you. That means a lot to me." After a moment of silence, in which Yasha could feel her heartbeat thudding in her chest, she pulled away, leaving Beau looking obviously disappointed.
It was rather cruel, she thought, leveraging the girl's affections to get what she wanted, but what was even worse was Yasha was not entirely unaffected herself. Beau was a striking young woman after all, and Yasha's tastes had always been towards women. Usually the more delicate damsel in distress types but there was a first for everything. But Beau was strictly off-limits. Yasha was savvy enough to know that wooing her employer's daughter was the best way to get herself fired and possibly her life ruined.
It was truly awful then that she wanted to do it anyways.
Hey guys! Yes, this is still a thing. Probably the first multi-chaptered thing I've posted since I was in high school. Critiques are most appreciated, but I also don't mind if you just leave a one word comment, lol. I'm getting over my own nerves regarding comment responses, so I'll try to respond to everyone. Thanks in advance!